Integrated shift/brake levers have been around for a long time now, but they aren’t getting any cheaper. As more people take up racing cyclocross, it has become obvious these shifters don’t like the inevitable exposure to sand, mud, and power washers. And if you race long enough, one of your crashes are going to damage those expensive shifters hanging off the front of your bars.
That’s where Retroshift comes in. Taking off-the-shelf brake levers and grafting a modern version of the thumbshifter to the front, Retroshift created a durable and relatively inexpensive shifting alternative.Tweet
For more than a decade Jeff Jones has been producing his 45-degree sweep bars. In that time, they have always been a multi-piece affair with the grip area welded to the crossbar. After many iterations, including some sold under the Titec brand, Jones has a new one-piece bar, the Bend H-bar.
You do lose out on the multiple hand postions of the Loop bar, and it is available only in the 660mm width for now, no 710mm yet. Personally I find that alt-bars like this ride wider than a standard bend bar, so I’m happy on the 660s. Normally I feel weird on anything narrower than 720mm with standard bars.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Gazelle is pretty succinct in describing this bike, touting it as the “ultimate family bicycle.” The $2,800 Cabby is a modern take on the wooden box bikes common in the streets of Amsterdam or Copenhagen. My hometown is far different—let’s see how it fared on the hilly and narrow streets I deal with.
First off, this is not a small bike. The wheelbase is huge, and the front wheel, steered with a linkage rod from handlebar to fork, seems very far away at first. Rather than the more common wooden box and steel frame, the Cabby uses aluminum for the frame and heavy-duty vinyl for the cargo box. The aluminum frame saves weight and resists corrosion, and the metal-framed cloth box folds up to fit through doorways. The box is also easily removable for storage.
Every component is selected for practicality: maintenance-free drum brakes, dynamo front light, and an internal 7-speed hub for gearing. A full chain case and skirt guard keep your clothes clean, and the step-through frame makes it easy to dismount or steady the bike when you push it off the center stand. The simple rear wheel lock is perfect for those quick stops when you don’t want to find a suitable object for locking up.
The linkage steering and long wheelbase take some getting used to at first. Low-speed handling can be tricky for the first few rides; I’d recommend some non-kid cargo and an empty parking for a first attempt. Once above walking speed, the Cabby actually feels sporty, at least until the first serious climb. That long wheelbase pays dividends in stability, and swoopy turns, even with two kids onboard, are instinctive and enjoyable.
Once I got the hang of low-speed steering and remembering that the front wheel wasn’t directly below the handlebars, I was very happy with how the bike handled almost every situation, be it low-speed U-turns, dodging potholes, or taking my place in traffic.
The reason I stuck “almost” in that last sentence? Hills. I was strong enough to muscle up just about every hill in town, but the gearing was too steep for my baby mamma. Standing up to climb helped things, but installing a smaller chainring would be the way to go for me. Unfortunately the stock chainring is permanently affixed to the crank. Nothing a trip to your friendly neighborhood bike shop (and some money)can’t fix, but that’s a bummer for a bike at this price.
That was a very minor “almost”—there is also a major one, the brakes. On short trips in my flat neighborhood, the brakes were acceptable, wet or dry. But my first trip down a steep hill had me almost pulling a Fred Flintstone, with levers pulled to the bar and the bike barely slowing. These Shimano roller brakes are not known for their stopping power, and the huge run of cable to the front wheel creates a lot of flex, further weakening them. Swap- ping to compressionless housing would help, but not enough to really make a difference for me. It is unfortunate the fork doesn’t have mounts for a disc brake (or better yet, a disc brake stock). I’ve noticed a lot of Dutch bikes are not equipped with powerful brakes, which is O.K. for flatter areas. I was fine on most of my rides, but if I wanted to get out of my neighborhood, steep hills are a fact of life.
The little bench has three shoulder harnesses; the middle one is used when carrying a single kid to keep the load balanced. The seat is barely padded, so I needed to add some cushions on longer rides—my kids inherited my bony behind. There was plenty of additional room in the box for book bags, groceries, or a big picnic, and the bench comes out for extra cargo space.
The folding box came in handy when running multiple errands. I could pull out the kids, pull the bench, and fold up the box with whatever cargo was inside. A U-lock through the exposed frame corners secured the goods from prying eyes and fingers. The box’s 165lb. capacity was more than adequate for whatever I managed to shove in there.
There are some very practical accessories available for the Cabby, including a rain canopy for the kids, a cover for cargo use, and mounts for an infant seat.
This is a very well-thought-out bike, and one of the few (if not the only) box-style cargo bike that will fit through a 28-inch door. My kids loved it, and my wife and I like riding it. The gearing issue was a minor one, but the brakes are a deal-breaker for me. If your town looks more like a pancake than an EKG read-out, this would be a great family bike.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Kona is well known for burly mountain bikes, but it would not be wise to pigeonhole them as just an off road bike company. With the recent release of Kona’s 2014 bikes, the pavement side of the line-up deserves as much attention as the dirt bikes.
Kona’s endurance road bikes, Zone, need to be inspected closely to understand what makes them standout in the crowd. All three models feature fender mounts, long reach brakes for tires up to 32mm(!) and carbon forks
The basic Zone model has an aluminum frame; the Zone One and Two have a carbon fiber frame. Geometry is relaxed without being anything like casual. These look like fast, comfortable bikes capable of long days on bad roads. Prices are $1,500 for the mostly Shimano 105 Zone, $2,900 for the also 105 equipped Zone One, and $3,900 for the Ultegra-level Zone One.
Steel is still a popular frame material at Kona, and the as evidenced by the Honky Tonk and Paddy Wagon. The Honky Tonk is a semi compact, but still traditional Reynolds 520 butted steel road bike, with similar tire clearance as the Zone models. A blend of Sora and Tiagra drivetrain parts and Conti Ultra Sport Tires round out the $1,100 package .
Those looking to keep it simple can have their wish on the $750 Paddy Wagon. Similar frame and clearances as the Honky Tonk, but with track ends and one gear. The Paddy Wagon comes stock with a flip-flop hub with fixed and freewheel options in a 42-16 ratio.
Cyclocross is nothing new for Kona. Entering the wee little cyclocross market in 1997, Kona now makes four models, all with disc brakes for 2014. The Jake model is probably most interesting to our readers, with its fender and rack mounts and wide range compact double gearing. While it may be able to play the part of a practical mount, it has a racing pedigree at heart. A Tiagra drivetrain, Tektro mechanical discs and a host of sturdy parts are reasonably priced at $1,200.
On the touring end of the spectrum, the Rove adventure bike returns mostly unchanged for 2014, and the fully outfitted Sutra touring bike now uses the same frame as the Rove.
Those looking for something lighter than the sturdy and hefty Rove frame can throw down for a Rove in titanium flavor. It’s a roll-your-own model, however, since it’s only available as a frame. Built in the U.S.A. by Lynskey, pricing isn’t set yet, but somewhere around $2,000 isn’t going to be far off.
The Ute cargo longtail is still going strong, but the little brother MinUte seems to be gone for 2014. The Ute is still sturdy and practical, and well appointed at $1,300. That buys you two big bags, a center stand and steering stabilizer.
There is a host of 700c commuter bikes from $500 to $1,000, and even a kids’ cyclocross bike, the $850 Jake 24. All in all, it seems Kona is offering a simplified road line up that deserves a solid look from fans of practical and fun bikes.
By Eric McKeegan
Thinking more about fast group rides, maybe a bit of racing, or even some light touring? Let’s take a look at the Secteur, which is the aluminum version of Specialized’s Paris Roubaix-winning (and creatively named) “Roubaix.”
Don’t let the race pedigree fool you—the Secteur is set up to be friendly for those of us without “Eye of the Tiger” playing on repeat in our heads. Designed to be comfortable and easy to ride, Specialized created a good old-fashioned all around road bike that isn’t at all old technology.
The frame is a modern hydroformed aluminum unit, the fork the now de rigueur carbon fiber. Both are equipped with Zertz inserts, a vibration-reducing elastomer in the fork legs and seat stays to help keep rough roads from ruining the ride. Its geometry numbers are more relaxed than Specialized’s more race-oriented frames, with a taller head- tube, longer chainstays, slacker head angle, and lower bottom bracket than the similarly priced but more racy Allez. What does that all mean for the ride? Read on, reader.
My first ride on the bike was a commute home, which starts with four miles of slight downhill. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a real skinny-tired road bike, and cranking out the miles in the big ring was a welcome change from my often slow slog home on various more practical bikes. This “fast” trend continued throughout the review period.
I mostly rode the Secteur for training for a mountain bike stage race, and it was outstanding in this regard. The ride is fast and efficient-feeling, but not so hard-edged that I avoided the rough roads I prefer. It was more nervous than I’d like on dirt roads, but everywhere else the bike was a fine balance of stability and responsiveness. The frame is stiffer than I’m used to, which led me to attack hills with more gusto than normal, but the Zertz are effective in taking the edge off rough roads, not quite as comfortable as some of the better steel frames I’ve ridden, but much, much better than most aluminum bikes.
I requested the model with a Shimano 105 compact double drivetrain, as I’ve found the gearing range to work well for my local terrain and reasonably fit self. Those looking to take advantage of the rear rack mounts, or who live in areas with sustained steep climbing, might be better off with the wide range SRAM Apex set-up or one of the triple-chainring options.
Three Specialized-branded components stood out enough to warrant mention. The Espoir Sport 25mm tires provided a smooth ride and great puncture resistance. No flats and little wear in a few thousand miles. The Comp handlebar has a great bend and was easy to set up. Finally, the Riva saddle was comfortable enough for a double century, but I’m sure the skinny 27.2mm seatpost helped here too; the bit of flex took the edge off.
The seatpost was a two-bolt set-up, making it easy to adjust the angle, but one of the bolts is only accessible through a hole in the saddle. Fortunately, the stock saddle is pretty swell, but installing a different non-holey saddle would make it very difficult to use the saddle clamp. No fender mounts meant fender options were limited, although a set of SKS Raceblade Long fenders (reviewed next issue) worked quite well. I figure if you are going to install rack mounts you might as well put fender mounts on there, too. I’d also love to be able to run 28mm tires and fenders; this only works with mid-reach road brakes, which this bike is not designed around. Specialized hinted that most of my concerns might cease to exist with expected changes for 2013 models.
When I was hanging the Secteur up in my basement recently, I had a vision of a kid finding it in 15 or 20 years, dusting it off, tuning it up, and failing in love with cycling. Specialized nailed it with this one— a fast, comfortable bike at an affordable price, with enough practicability to bring it out of the recreation-only range. Those with visions of long charity rides, Gran Fondos, and other fast rides will not be disappointed with the Secteur.
By Eric McKeegan
Planet Bike continues to develop innovative products for the practical cyclist. Out of the profits made from selling those innovative products, Planet Bike donates 25 percent to grassroots bicycle advocacy groups—more than $1 Million to date. Walking the walk, for sure. Lets check out a few of their new items.
Blaze 2 Watt Micro Light
This $40 light makes 140 Lumens from a pair of AA batteries, all while being cheaper, lighter and smaller than the previous version. Modern LED technology has been good to us cyclists.
This new saddle has no fancy name, just two models, Pro and Comp. Designed to fill the gap between high-end race saddles and lower priced, over-stuffed saddles, the Pro and Comp share a perforated shell and cover, but little else.
The $58 Comp uses chromoly steel rails and foam and gel padding, the $75 Pro model gets Ti rails and thinner, all-gel padding. All those holes are designed to increase airflow and provide some vibration damping.
The Airsmith has a retractable hose to decrease stress on the valve stem while allowing you to get a better angle on the pumping action. The hose is Schrader valve compatible only—a Presta valve adaptor stores the handle. The composite Comp version is only $17, the alloy ALX goes for $25. Both include a water bottle boss mounting bracket.
WB200 Fork Mount Tray
Whispbar is Yakima’s more modern roof rack design, using lots of brushed aluminum and hidden hardware for better look with newer vehicles. The WB200 is a new bike tray with compatibility with both 9mm QR and 15mm axles. As someone who is constantly switching bikes, this is a very promising development.
The aluminum lever and axle for 9mm axles removes easily, the front cover flips up, a little switch is pushed down, and two 15mm axle stubs extend as the cover is closed. When not in use the tray can be removed in seconds, using a simple lever and cam system called QuickDock. A single lock secures the bike to the tray and the tray to the roof rack. This $250 tray will only work with the Whispbar system, no word yet if we’ll see a similar design compatible with Yakima’s older round bar system in the future.
Grand Cru Drillium 110 Crank
This is a classy looking crank—don’t even try to argue with me about it. Utilizing 48-34 chainrings in a 110mm BCD, these cranks will provide the performance most riders need with style to spare. The Grand Cru is forged and machined to its final shape, and the chainrings will work with any 6-10 speed drivetrain. Yes, there is a square taper BB interface under those dust caps, which will make many riders (myself included) happy. The $200 price tag isn’t too shabby, either.
Dajia Accessory Mount
This is a pretty ingenious device. It is adjustable to fit almost any 4 bolt stem, weighs very little, and is only $15. The accessory bar is a 31.8 plastic tube, perfect for mounting a headlight out of the way of that big GPS unit or smart phone on your handlebars. These are in stock now.
MyKick Balance Bike
Balance bikes are absolutely the best way to get kids on two wheels. Burley has long been a trusted name is kids trailers, and this MyKick balance bikes seems to be a natural extension of the product line.
With a steel frame, lightweight spoked wheels, and zero-maintenance solid tires, the MyKick should have not trouble handling the abuse these little bikes have to endure. The rubber grips even use oversize ends to prevent poking holes in your little one during a crash. It comes in three colors (red, pink, green) and is available now for $130.
By Eric McKeegan. Photos by Adam Newman
Lake boots spent a long time at the top of the heap for winter footwear, but some problems with the previous MXZ302 model and a withdraw from the U.S. market sent customers looking elsewhere.
Lake is now under new ownership and is back in the U.S., distributed by Stage Race. I’ve been lucky enough to be riding the new $280 MXZ303 boots, and am happy to report these are set to return Lake to the top spot for winter cycling.
Everyone knows toes get cold first, so the Thinsulate insulation in the toe box makes sense. The outer is Pittards leather, well known for its durability, breathability, and water resistance, although regular leather treatments are needed to keep it looking good and working well. I was pretty suspicious of the Outlast liner, the claims of trapping and releasing heat to regulate temperature sounded like hogwash to me. I was proven wrong though, with these boots working from single digit temps up into the 40s, depending on sock choice. Thanks NASA!
The cuff is now secured with a side release buckle with an adjustable strap, allowing for a snug fit to keep out the elements. The old cuff was always loose fitting, and the small Velcro closure quickly lost its holding power. The other problem area for the 302 model was the plastic heel cup. It was forever catching on cable stops and linkages, popping stitches and generally being an annoyance. The fix? It is gone, and I don’t miss it a bit.
High end cycling shoes have almost universally adopted the BOA dial closure system, and on high end racing shoes that are designed to be snug and supportive, the system has its merits. In cold weather, footwear needs to fit loosely enough to insure full circulation; the BOA makes it all too easy to get things too snug, resulting in cold feet. Standard laces and a cord lock would be both less expensive and better suited to this application.
Sizing seems to be a little smaller than the 302s. I’d recommend at buying at least a full size up, and I hope the wide widths become available again, I miss the toe wiggle room in my wide-model 302s.
The Vibram sole is grippy, sheds mud well, and allows for easy walking. In fact, other than wanting some arch support, these are some of the more comfortable shoes I own, and I usually don’t bother to remove them when I arrive at work. Normally I’d replace the insole to get that arch support, but the proprietary insulated insoles aren’t something I’m going to give up.
My typical off road ride in the woods is going to involve some walking or standing around. This quickly turns metal cleats into heat sinks, and my feet get cold in the MXZ303s, even with the fancy insoles. I’m temped to order a pair of Jazronaut insoles from the 45North Wolvhammer boots we reviewed recently, which claim to have even more space tech to keep feet insulated from cold cleats.
Overall I’m very happy with the improved MXZ303. I wasn’t a fan of the bright yellow graphics, but it seems that as taking care of itself as they are slowly peeling off. These may be the most versatile winter boots on the market, not as warm as the Wolvhammers, but won’t overheat you on those spring days when it is 38 and wet.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
I’ve reviewed a whole slew of cargo bikes, but this is the first time I’ve ridden a “longjohn” style bike. Longjohns carry the cargo low between the wheels and use a linkage-steered front wheel. The Cabby is Gazelle’s version of the ultimate family bike.
The Cabby utilizes a steel frame, but rather than the more common wooden box, the cargo compartment is aluminum and fabric. Inside the cargo box you’ll find a removable bench seat with shoulder harnesses for two kids.
Unlike most bikes sold in the U.S., the Cabby is a turn-key commuter, with fenders, a full chaincase, a skirt guard, rear rack, front and rear lights and a sturdy centerstand. The internally-geared hub and drum brakes keep maintenance to a minimum, and the upright riding position keeps thing comfortable and casual
After spending quite a few months on a three-wheeled cargo bike, the Cabby looks and feels almost sporty, quite a feat for a bike that is almost nine feet long. As an experienced rider, It didn’t take me long to get used to steering a wheel that sits five feet in front of the handlebar. My wife took a little longer to get used to it, but the handling becomes second nature quickly.
I’ve been putting the Cabby through the full range of cargo bike uses over the last few months. If you are interested in the full review, check out the next issue of Bicycle Times, available soon on print and digital newsstands, or in your mailbox or tablet device should you be one of our cherished subscribers.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
The bike industry is still looking for the correct term for bikes like the Secteur. It isn’t a race bike, nor is it a touring bike. Specialized calls it “endurance road". I’ve seen "comfort road" and "plush road" too. Whatever, all these bikes are probably better choices for the average rider than the more aggressive race models. So how about these just be road bikes, and we’ll call the race bikes what they are: race bikes.
Anyway, enough about that, what makes the Secteur not a race bike? Let’s compare it to the Allez, Specialized’s race inspired road bike at similar price points to the Secteur. I’m testing a size 56. To start, both bikes share a top tube length of 565mm and a 73.25º seat angle, so fit is going to be pretty similar. The Sectuer has a 20mm taller headtube to get the bars up higher, a slacker head angle, longer chainstays, a lower bottom bracket and a longer front center for more stability. Those long chainstays combined with elastomer inserts in the fork and chainstays should deliver on the promise of less road vibration transmitted to the rider.
It’s been a wet spring, so I mounted up a set of full coverage SKS fenders, which fit fine with the stock 25mm tires.
Look here, rack mounts! Specialized spec’d an almost complete 105 group, minus the hubs, although I won’t complain about using DT Swiss hubs instead. Glad to see the 105 compact crank, Shimano still makes the best shifting cranks in the business.
My road rides often include roads that are not pavement. They look like this:
Yes, I cleaned this climb:
I’m enjoying the light and stiff feel of this bike, and I grudgingly admit the elastomer inserts are doing something to take the edge of rough roads. This is the first bike I’ve tested that makes me want to find some fast group rides to grace with my presence rather that continue with my typical solo missions.
I’ll be riding the Secteur into the early summer, might even try my hand at some road racing, even if this isn’t a “race” bike, is sure feels fast to me.
By Eric McKeegan
An unseasonably warm weekend welcomed bike dealers (and a few media folks) from around the country to Minnesota for Frostbike, Quality Bicycle Products’ annual dealer expo. More than 150 companies were on hand to show off the goods and services you might see this spring in your favorite local bike shop.
Never heard of Quality Bicycle Products? QBP is one of the largest wholesaler of bicycle parts in the country, with three warehouses and adding more employees each year. They are also the parent company behind Surly, Salsa, Civia, All-City, Problem Solvers, Whisky, Foundry, 45NRTH, and a few other brands I’m probably forgetting. Here are some things that caught my eye and lens at the show:
Acros Hydraulic Shifting
We all love the juice in our brake lines these days, why not for shifting too? Those with the need for the newest fancy bits on the market can pony up $2,000 for a set of hydraulic shifters and derailleurs. That is admittedly a lot of cash, but due to the modular nature of the parts, they may never become obsolete. Currently the system can be configured for 8, 9, or 10 speed cassettes and dual or triple rings up front. The front derailleur can adapt to any type of mount currently on the market, and whole system bolts together so damaged pieces are easily replaced in case of a crash.
The shifters are a single lever type. Pushing the flat part of the shift lever shifts one way, push the angled part of the lever to rotate the lever as you push forward to shift in the other direction. Much easier to do than explain. Stay tuned, we hope to get in a set for review.
While 45NRTH only had tires to show, they are also developing products to keep hands and feet warm in the cold. The first tire to reach production is the Husker Du, an all-purpose fat bike tire. The tread pattern looks like it would work well just about anywhere, snow or dirt, and the prototype studded version shown in the ice sculpture could be the ticket for mixed snow and ice rides. Look for studded tires in more standard 700c and 26” sizes too.
Surly Ultra New Hub
There are no doubt thousands of Surly hubs out there, I have one myself on the bike I rode to work today. They are cheap and strong, but many folks have problems keeping the bearings in adjustment. The Ultra New Hub should fix that problem with an update to more modern non-adjustable bearing system. Gone are the lock nuts and angular contact bearings of the past, now press fit axle caps with serious knurling should keep things in place, although fixed riders may need a axle tug to keep the wheel in place with the new 5mm bolts that replace the track nuts of old.
Also shown is a prototype of a trailer hitch that slots into the accessory ports on Xtracycle compatible longtails. The hitch is specific to Surly’s own Bill and Ted flat bed cargo trailers.
This relatively new company has really expanded their product line this year, and two things caught my eye, a plastic pedal and a tire.
The Mesa MP pedal is built from some type of reinforced nylon, but unlike most plastic pedals these have real metal pins for traction when wet. So, who is going to like these (besides bike polo jocks)? Cold weather riders. Metal pedals act like a heat sink, pulling the warmth from even well insulated feet. Fat bikers are stoked about this product.
The Session tire might be aimed at urban riders and fixed-freestylers, but those with hankering for dirt and gravel roads may find a new friend here. I’ve found I like riding almost anything that resembles a road on 28mm tires, but most 28mm tires aren’t up to the task of bouncing down washed out roads at unadvisable speeds. The Session uses a wrap around tread pattern that should help fend off pinch flats and offer more traction on loose surfaces, and a Kevlar belt keep punctures at bay. Besides a variety of colors the tires are available in 23mm, 28mm and 35mm widths, 700c only.
In Issue #13 we reviewed All City’s singlespeed cyclocross bike, the Nature Boy, and now they’ve launched a geared version, The Macho Man. They were also showing off Mr. Pink, a sturdy road bike. While it was introduced last spring, this was my first chance to get up close and personal with Mr Pink.
Built with Columbus Zona steel with a matching steel fork, this isn’t just another 4130 frame. Fender mounts and mid-reach brakes mean tires up to 32s are possible, and 28s with fenders are no problem. The fork is classic box crown affair with a classic rake, and small details like water bottle boss reinforcements are classy touches on this modern frame. Available as a complete bike or frameset.
As the name states, Problem Solves mission is to identify problems and create problems to solve them. They had quite a few “why didn’t I think of that” products at FrostBike.
PF-30 Eccentric BB: This eccentric converts a BB30 Press Fit frame for single speed use.
Canti post light mounts: I have two bikes with disc brakes that have unused cantilever brake mounts (horray for discs!) sticking out like sore thumbs. This product makes them usefull again as a light mounting location, great for use with bikes with portuer racks or handlebar bags that would block a handlebar mounted light.
QR nut light mount: Maybe your bike is still using your canti studs, or maybe you don’t have any at all? In about 10 seconds you can unthread the nut from your quick release skewer, thread this on and mount up a headlight. Some people are big fans of the broad beam a low mount light provides. Not recommended for rear use, freestyle tricks, or a place for your friend to stand when you are riding home from the playground.
Singlespeed derailleur mount: Got a bike with track ends you want to run a derailleur on? This little gem will allow you to do so. Maybe do something with that 26” single speed you never ride anymore, or slap on a geared rear wheel for some bike packing action.
Two Pulley Chain Tensioner: There are plenty of single pulley chain tensioners on the market, and for the most part they work well at tensioning a chain. What they don’t do well is adapt to changing chain length. That makes the Tow Pulley tensioner well-suited to converting full suspension bikes to a single rear cog, or running 2 chain rings up front to give your single speed a road an off-road gear, making riding to the ride a bit more bearable.
Famous for their darn near indestructible vacuum bottles, Stanley is diretly targeting the cycling market with some pretty choice food transport devices.
The three bottles pictured here will fit in a standard bottle cage, and can be opened with one hand to drink on the bike, but seal up tightly enough to slip into a bag without fear of spillage. The middle and right bottles are insulated to keep your hot hot and your cold cold.
This lunch case fits into a bag much easier than the old-time steel worker luch box, and will keep your sandwhich, sushi or shrimp cocktail safe from smashing. An I have it on good authority that even though it is labeled for MAN LUNCH, it should work fine for ladies too.
By Eric McKeegan
Ask most parents and they will tell you they love riding with their kids. I love riding with mine. The only problem is that you either ride at their speed, or end up riding with a child seat or a trailer. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that, in fact sometimes that is absolutely perfect, but at times I want to go for a longer, faster ride and I’ve found hauling kids around in a seat or trailer isn’t conducive to that. After riding this Co-Motion, I realize all rides with kids don’t have to be at kid pace.
The other problem with most kid-carrying devices for your bike? Kids grow; bikes don’t—at least not usually. That is the key to the Periscope. Both the front (captain) and rear (stoker) positions have a double telescoping seatpost. Remove the lower extension and riders as short as 4’10” up front and 3’6” rear can fit comfortably. With both extensions in place (and adjustments to the handlebars), riders up to 6’2” can occupy either position.
Who is Co-Motion? Based in Eugene, Oregon, Co-Motion started building frames over 20 years ago and is still at it, one of the few larger frame shops left building in the U.S. They offer a variety of bikes including many to fill underserved (or ignored) niches. We’ve tested a cyclocross and an adventure touring bike from them in the past, most recently the Pangea in Issue #7. They may be most famous for their tandems, but there are plenty of other options including custom frames, not only in the expected steel but also in 7005 aluminum.
The Scout is built with oversized, butted steel tubing, and weighs a good bit less than I expected. That oversize steel tubing is super-stiff, a welcome trait when descending at speed on potholed roads with precious cargo hanging off the back. All the basic braze-ons are provided: mounts for four bottles, front and rear racks, and fenders. The tiny rear triangle and disc brakes make rack mounting difficult, and it can be hard to find skinny fenders for 26” wheels, but these problems are probably not going to scare off the type of rider that will buy this bike.
I tested the small frame and found the head tube and top tube to be on the short side for long rides; I felt cramped and the low handlebar height caused some hand pain. The size large has a longer top tube, so a bump up in size (and possibly a taller stem) would work fine without losing any ability to fit my shorter kid on the back. The build kit is a solid blend of road, mountain bike, and tandem parts. As a mountain biker used to having strong brakes, the disc brakes were a welcome spec, and the oversize rotors insure powerful fade-free braking.
The road triple-chainring crank matched with a wide-range mountain bike cassette provides a huge range of gears, helpful in getting up hills with a stoker who might be more interested in the next ice cream stop than in assisting the captain on the current ascent. While no one seems to be able to agree on the perfect crankarm length, there is little argument that shorter riders should have shorter cranks. Tandems East, one of Co-Motion’s largest dealers and a giant in tandem retail, sent me a set of their crank shorteners ($118), a machined aluminum fitting that bolts onto the crankarm and provides four shorter mounting points for the pedals, from 24-76mm. I chose the second shortest position with seemed to work well for Seamus (who is 3’8”) and his 7-year-old sister Oona (3’11”).
Both kids could climb on the bike them- selves, which made getting started easy. I flipped the stoker bars backwards so the ex- tensions faced the rear and extended the stem completely, which shrunk the cockpit enough for the kids to ride comfortably.
Riding for two
Neither my wife or I have much tandem experience, but we both found the Scout to be very easy to ride. I was comfortable enough after a few rides to try some mild dirt paths. Off-road speed is kept in check with the slick tires, but that isn’t a bad thing—this is not a mountain bike.
The stiff frame is also great for climbing. We have a very steep hill near our house that leads to a long descent, and I had no problems cranking up the steep bit—cheers from passing cars also helped. Going down, the bike inspired confidence. I’ve ridden a lot of cargo bikes with similar wheelbases and steering geometry that would get pretty scary at speed due to frame flex and weak brakes, but the Scout had none of these issues. Regardless of all the adjustability built into this bike, it still feels very sporty.
The seatposts were easy to adjust with standard quick-release levers that did not slip. Switching from a child stoker to an adult would be a very quick job; the crank shorteners probably double the time, but it still only takes half an hour or so after some practice.
The Scout also has a very practical side. My wife used it to drop Oona off at school, and I hope to keep it around a little longer to take it on an overnight bike-camping trip. Outfitted with racks and fenders, I would have no problem setting out on a multi-day tour, either.
The only real problem I see with this bike is that the kids fight over who gets to ride it. Few bikes make peoples’ eyes light up like a tandem. Kids particularly liked to see us out and about. Both kids were stoked to be stokers—they really liked knowing they were helping to get where we were going rather than just being carted around.
To top it off, my family would always have room to grow into this bike, unless one of us ends up over 6’2”. That makes this a serious long-term investment, which makes the price tag much easier to swallow. It’s easy to see who this bike is for: lifelong cyclists looking to ride longer distances at faster speeds than with other child-carrying options. The fact that it is made in the U.S.A. is just icing on the
Regina’s perspective: In the seven years I’ve been a mom, I think I’ve tried just about every combination, contraption, and attachment known to man to haul my children around the city by bicycle. Once I took the tandem out I realized that was exactly my problem: I was “hauling” them around instead of letting them participate in the ride, too. I was, for once, not nervous about what was going on behind me, how close cars were, if the kids had become detached and were rolling away into traffic, etc. I never felt more comfortable cruising around with one of my kiddos on the bike than I did with the tandem. They really dug feeling like they were responsible for getting us up a big hill, being able to easily chat with me, and the envious stares of neighborhood kids
- Age: 37
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 155lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: United States of America
- Price: $3195
- Weight: 34.5lbs.
- Sizes Available: Small (tested), Large
- Contact: www.co-motion.com
By Eric McKeegan
The Christiana Bikes Boxcycle has been in steady use since arriving in October, where did the time go? For those not familiar, Christiana is (or was) a odd little self-governing enclave in Copenhagen, the result of an early 70’s unauthorized take over of a former military base on the edge of the city
About a decade later Lars Engstrom wanted to build something for his wife Annie to haul their kids around Christiana, which is a car-free neighborhood. Thus, the Boxcycle. Fast forward to today and visually not much has changed. Look closer and modern upgrades abound: dual disc front brakes, a hydraulic steering stabilizer, aluminum frame, and a seven speed rear hub.
We’ve been out for many fun rides so far after the first adventure, a seven mile commute home on rural roads. I’ll go on record saying this terrain is not this bike’s forte. Between my inexperience on a Boxcycle and the crown of the road, I spend a lot of time with my jaw set and a death grip on the bars.
Once I got home and settled into a more daily routine the Boxcycle really started to come into its own, with both my wife and I adapting quickly to the handling.
We’ve had an odd winter so far this year, with lows in the teens mixed with highs in the mid 50’s. On cold mornings the kids were a bit too chilly, but the arrival of the optional canopy solved the cold issue. A warm coat and blanket keeps the kids warm enough even into the teens.
Now the review period is drawing to a close. Interested in reading the full review? Subscribe!
By Eric McKeegan
Paul Sadoff IS Rock Lobster. Building in Santa Cruz since 1978 and full-time since 1988, Sadoff focuses on performance, fit, and comfort while keeping prices and wait times reasonable for a custom frame. Sadoff also teaches a frame-building class at United Bicycle Institute a few times a year. During a recent class he built this “fat tire” road bike, mostly for himself but also with the thought it would make a fine review bike for some member of the cycling media.
I’m a member of the cycling media, I’m just a touch taller than Sadoff, and I happened to have quite a few rides planned for the spring and summer that seemed to suit this bike to a T. After putting a ton of miles on it, riding everything from smooth pavement to singletrack trails, I may be on a mission to change what people think when they hear “road bike.”
Personally, when I hear “road bike,” I picture what has become the de facto standard in the U.S., the road racing bicycle: skinny tires, aggressive position, steep angles, light and fragile frame, super-stiff ride. Great for racing, not so great for everything else. The Rock Lobster departs from almost all of these points without losing the ability to go fast.
Underneath that blue paint is TIG-welded Kasei steel, a high-quality butted chromoly steel from Japan. This is matched with a brazed box-crown fork with Dedacciai blades.
Where does the “fat-tire” part come in? Most road bikes are lucky to fit a 28mm tire, mostly because modern short-reach brake calipers won’t accommodate anything bigger. Sadoff built this bike around Shimano R450 mid-reach calipers to provide room for at least 32mm tires, 28mm with fenders installed. Yes, I said “fenders.” The bike shipped with a beautiful pair of aluminum fenders that bolt right to the provided eyelets. Heck, there are even rack mount fittings.
I didn’t pay much attention to the details when the box from Santa Cruz showed up; I had riding to do, and soon, no time to ask Sadoff for the nitty-gritty on tubing and angles. I decided that I would go for a bit more racy position than I’ve been riding in lately and installed the stem in the negative-rise position, making for a good 4-inches of drop from the seat to the bars. Might as well take advantage of my lack of beer belly while I have the chance. I figured I would flip it upright for longer or rougher rides.
Well, that never happened. The stem flipping that is, not the rides. I rode the crap out of this thing. Four hundred unsupported miles in under 48 hours across Pennsylvania? Check. Seventy-five miles of West Virginia dirt and gravel roads during the Hilly Billy Roubaix? Check. Mixed-surface rides in and around the city, including singletrack? Check. Throw in some commuting and just-for-fun road rides and I’m pretty confident I’ve got enough miles to pronounce this bike spectacular in the most understated way possible. The riding position felt right from the first ride home, stretched out to the bars, with weight well-balanced between the wheels. I discovered that lower back issues I experience on long rides are much improved with more reach to the bars, not less.
This bike sings along back roads. I know “sing” is a pretty vague term, but that is what I often thought while riding. The semi-ag- gressive position combined with the springy and absorbent wheels, cushy handmade Challenge tires, and the resilient steel frame made for an almost magical ride where the bike seemed to speed up on less-than-perfect pavement. Instead of rattling my teeth out on cracks and bumps, the Rock Lobster seemed to want to go faster. The fork shares a starring role here with the frame: it was well-matched, absorbing shock without dulling the input from the road like a carbon bike.
Off the pavement and onto dirt, this thing was almost scary. Not scary in an evil handling way, but scary in an “allez, allez!” way. While the 72-degree head angle is on the steep side, the low bottom bracket (267mm height) and longer chainstays (420mm, same length as on most Rock Lobster cyclocross bikes) make for a bike that is willing and able to outride its tires on rough terrain. It isn’t often I feel comfortable enough to back it into corners on a gravel road, even on a mountain bike, but a touch of rear brake to get the rear end drifting around was a surprisingly natural thing to do. Even some light trail riding wasn’t out of the question, although there is a limit to that on tires with almost no tread and a “road” riding position.
The handbuilt (by Mr. Sadoff) wheels put up with everything I put them through, not a single wobble to be found. The fenders were dead quiet; something I’m coming to appreciate about properly installed modern metal fenders. I didn’t try a rear rack, but I imagine light loads for overnight trips would be fine; just don’t look at this bike as a good choice for long-distance touring unless you want to roll with a superlight kit.
I had a hard time coming up with a conclusion for this bike. It felt most at home being ridden hard and fast on any kind of terrain that could be classified as road, but wasn’t uncomfortable on long road rides either—a perfect blend of cyclocross and road traits. The Rock Lobster has rekindled my love of road bikes, and proves once again steel isn’t dead and never will be.
Rock Lobster currently has a four-to-five month build queue. Besides the fat-tire style road bike, Sadoff also builds just about everything but full suspension, including 26” and 29” mountain bikes, track, and cyclocross, in steel or aluminum.
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Price: $3,284 as built, $1,340 frame, $250 fork
Sizes Available: Custom only
Check out this builder profile we wrote about Sadoff in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, in 2005.
He was also the focus of an Industry Insider interview from earlier this year.
By Eric McKeegan
Well, look here, a longtail from one of the big players in the bicycle game! Surely a sign of a healthy practical biking culture taking root here in the U.S. Electric assist, too! The future of urban transport? I hope so.
Aluminum is the material of choice here for the frame and fork. Even with the battery and motor, the Transport isn’t overly heavy. I really dig the sloping top tube—so much easier to step over when the rear rack is loaded with cargo or kids.
That rear rack is huge and welded on. The attachment points for bags are bolted on, and a few of the bolts rattled themselves loose—nothing a bit of thread locker didn’t fix. The top rack is rated for 100lbs. The handy side platforms can each hold 50lbs., and they fold up when not in use. Another 25lbs. can be hauled on the front rack, for a total capacity of 225lbs.
The single included bag can easily hold two overstuffed grocery bags and a few other bits. One outside pocket is perfectly sized for a U-lock, and few inside pockets can carry smaller stuff like tools or keys or the battery charger. I’d recommend picking up a second bag ($130) with the bike, as it’s much more versatile with two bags. The zipper closure is nice—no chance of cargo bouncing out, and it keeps your organic fair trade coffee out of sight and away from sticky fingers.
The bags attach with three plastic clips at the top that use a piece of spring steel to provide retention. This makes the bags easy to remove; maybe a bit too easy, as one bounced off once while riding. Fortunately I ran the straps through the bottom of the rack, so it just dragged beside me until I was able to stop.
The cockpit was nicely appointed: a pair of swept-back bars provides both comfort and leverage, and the seat was comfortable but supportive, great for riding in street clothes. The 16-speed drivetrain was fine around town, but I spent a good bit of time wound out in the highest gear on long straight stretches. Adding a third chainring is an easy and cheap upgrade. The wheels seem quite stout, the tires are flat-resistant and the tubes have sealant inside—changing a flat on a loaded cargo bike can be a bummer, so I’m glad to see Trek is thinking practically here. Where’s the rear fender, though?
How’s it go, you ask? With quiet authority, I answer. The 350-watt motor is the pedelec type, so it only works while pedaling, no throttle to twist. Located in the rear hub, it is completely silent, and on full power it allows me to get up all but the steepest of hills without shifting out of the big ring. The assist has four settings: 25-50-75-100% power, easily changed with the handlebar-mounted control. Full power can be addicting, but draining on the battery. My 15-mile round power to insure I had full boost to get up the almost half-mile hill to my house.
Charging is pretty simple: about four hours for a full charge from empty on standard household current, and the battery can be easily removed once unlocked if your parking spot doesn’t have nearby electric outlet. With the abundance of storage space on the Transport, I played it safe and usually carried the charger with me. Batteries should last 600-700 charging cycles. The battery, mounted under the rear rack, also incorporates a red taillight and is wired to an LED headlight mounted under the front rack; both are turned on and off with the motor control unit on the handlebar.
With light loads the handling was spot-on; quick steering, but the huge wheelbase kept things stable. The frame did exhibit a good bit of flex; most times this was just an annoyance, but throw in a heavy load and a rough road, and it became hard to predict exactly where the Transport was heading. I never crashed, but it would be a disconcerting feeling, maybe even scary, to newer riders. Standard commuting loads or a single kid on back while traveling on smooth roads pose no problems.
Loading it up, particularly with the single bag, could be challenging. The included center stand is a great idea, but it is too narrow and flexy to work well. The length of each leg can be adjusted by hand, which was helpful with unbalanced loads, but a wider stance would do the same thing with no need to keep the bike upright and fiddle with the center stand at the same time. I wouldn’t trust it to hold the bike up with kids on top.
The kid situation might be the big weakness with this bike. Trek doesn’t offer any seats, pads, or accessory handlebars for the “replace the minivan” set. It seems like most cargo bike folks are into some DIY action, but I think plug-andplay options would be helpful in getting more people to try bikes like this. Fortunately, a lot of the kid-carrying kit from longtail competitors Xtracycle and Yuba can be used on this bike with little to no fuss. I talked to Travis Ott, Trek’s lifestyle brand manager, about the kid situation and he said, “We’ve looked at it, but are waiting to see how big the market for cargo bikes really is. It’s the first project in the queue, because we’re hearing the same request. Sometimes ‘children’ and ‘cargo’ are one and the same.“
I’m pretty excited to see a company like Trek taking this part of the utility market seriously. The addition of an electric motor that operates seamlessly will open up new worlds of possibility to many riders who live in hilly terrain and/or whose fitness would prevent them from utilizing a bicycle more. Those willing to tough it out unaided have the choice of the $1390 Transport: same bike, no motor. And yes, the motor does double the price. I sincerely hope to see Trek continue to develop the Transport line-up to meet the needs of the growing group of families and other folks looking to do more on two wheels.
Gina, Eric’s wife, on the Transport+:
Although we didn’t know each other well, we had a connection—some may say an electric connection. I regret not getting to know him better, but you know how it is with kids…he just didn’t seem to be interested in them. I was so excited when I first met him. I thought, “Surely this hunk is just the assist I need!” I pictured long, purposeful rides together, just the four of us. Why, he should be just the boost of confidence I need to take on the mountains I face. When it was just he and I, things were great! I could really unload on him and he knew just what to do, always giving me just the right amount of support I needed. Sigh—I guess it’s just not the right time for us to be together. Maybe someday he’ll be ready for a MWLTR (mom who likes to ride) like me, but until then, our affair is sadly over before it has begun.
Height: 5’ 11”
Vital bike stats
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Sizes Available 17”, 20” (tested)
By Eric McKeegan
I’ve spent a good deal of time on a lot of bikes, from very basic to quite complex and expensive, but it wasn’t until I took possession of this Moots that I realized I’ve never had anything past a parking lot ride on a titanium bike. I was also a little nervous using this pricy bike as a commuter, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from riding it.
The RSL designation is given to Moots lightest and most racy frames, and after just a short spin I was immediately struck by just how racy this bike was. Ti is often thought of as on the comfy end of the flexibility range, but I never got that impression, this bike felt the business, as is “I’m here to race cross and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum” type-business.
The 44mm head tube means tapered forks are an option, the oversize double-butted main triangle is stiff, and the tapered stays help to keep things smooth when the going got rough. No close up shots, but there is a PF30 BB shell for maximum compatibility with modern cranks, and its oversized nature no doubt helps to stiffen things up down there, like a good pair of support hose.
Anyway, this here is a race bike, and has very few options outside of things like Di2 routing, custom geometry and a disc mount. It feels racy and made me want to ride fast and take chances. I’m going to guess it was the only Moots cross bike in Nevada wearing DH pedals, and the only one that took a few laps around the Treasure Island bar. If I was a racist, er I mean racer, this here would make a mighty fine race bike, assuming I had a spare $3,000 for the frame and another $2,000 or so for a parts kit.
I came away mighty impressed with the RSL, and it has very much got me thinking about a long term test about one of these Ti dream bikes. I would probably lean towards something more practical, and fortunately Moots has plenty of offerings that aren’t so hard edged, like the Vamoots LT, the standard Psychlo X, or the ultimate commute machine, the Comooter.
By Eric McKeegan
I was in such a hurry to get on this bike and get riding I neglected to get a first impression post written and published. Now that the review is wrapped up and printed, seems like it would proper to write a follow up post about it.
Quick intro to the bike for those of you who haven’t read the review (get your subscription here): The Transport+ is a longtail cargo bike from Trek (check it out on Trek’s website). The + part of the name denotes an electric assist motor in the rear hub. Regardless of some crotchety folks’ opinion on the matter this does not make it a motorcycle, any more than the pedals on moped make it a bicycle. The motor is only an assist, there is no throttle and power is only added when the rider is pedaling. The motor is a great help in hilly areas, running out of steam on a steep hill, on a cargo bike in traffic is pretty scary. You’ve got to get your feet down, keep your bike upright and figure out whether it makes more sense to try to push up the hill or turn around and coast down and find another way around.
One of the most common larger loads I carried on the transport was a second bike. The lower rack supports made it pretty easy to get a bike strapped down and secure, although a bit of padding wouldn’t hurt to keep paint from getting scratched.
Best accessory for this bike you won’t find in a bike shop? Six foot bungee cord. I’ve strapped flat out ridiculous stuff to the Transport, and you can make it out in the picture above holding the frame and wheels to rack. I’ve always got one stashed on my personal Xtracycle longtail, and usually one in my motorcycle top box.
What were we talking about? The Transport! The market for cargo bikes continues to grow which a great sign for the future of transportation and utility cycling in the U.S.A. I’m not here to preach to people about going car-free, with two kids I realize how difficult that would be. But bike like this can replace the car in shorter trips, or maybe even replace a second car altogether for some households. With better cycling infrastructure being created everyday I often feel we are on the cusp of a sea change in car dominated transportation system.
Worst part about reviewing this bike? I’ve got to box it up and send it back. It’s a BIG box.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Swobo started life as a clothing company years ago, out to push wool on the masses before the masses realized wool was the bomb. After going incommunicado for a few years, Swobo returned somewhat recently; now more than just a clothing company, they offer a full line of bikes aimed at the urban rider. Poking around the Internet for a singlespeed to test, the Crosby caught my eye and Swobo dispatched one from Santa Cruz just in time for a cold and wet East Coast winter to arrive. The Crosby falls into the do-it-all cyclocross bike category with commuting, racing, trails, light touring, and road rides all within its purview.
Unlike most other bikes in this category, such as the venerable Surly Cross-Check or Soma Double Cross, the Crosby uses an aluminum rather than steel frame. The fluid forming process (also called “hydroforming”) is used to create tube shapes said to provide a stiff yet resilient ride, and the frame is paired with a carbon fork, painted to match. A set of sliding dropouts tensions the chain; derailleurs are an option, and a geared dropout is available for $25. On the frame and fork, provisions are made for cantilever and disc brakes, along with rack and fender mounts. Cable stops all around for brakes and shift cables. Got your own stash of parts to use, or ready to build up a bike from scratch? The frameset is available separately for $550.
I got right to riding, glad to have the knobby WTB Cross Wolf tires on the slush-filled streets. I swapped the stem for a shorter one after a few rides, and thought about swapping bars and levers too, but in the end my disagreements with the bends and hood shape weren’t enough to ruin our relationship. Stock gearing is 42/17, which is just slightly lower than what I usually run, but it worked out just fine. The saddle is well padded but still supportive, great for riding in street clothes.
The real component standout was the SRAM Torpedo hub. Stick a petite flathead screwdriver through a hole in the hub, turn seven times—ka-pow, freewheeling. Turn the other way—fixed. In theory, I really like this idea. Ride fixed most of the time, switch to free for trails or casual rides around town. In practice, I never had a small enough screwdriver around (the one on your multi-tool ain’t gonna fit), so I rode it fixed most of the time, including some character-building forays on snowy singletrack.
Fortunately, the Crosby is set up well for flailing around in the woods, or riding to the store, or riding to the next state, or maybe even getting your race on. The geometry and handling are very much middle-of-the-road, but that is a high compliment for a bike like this. Whether it is bombing rough road descents, dodging trees on singletrack, or commuting to work, I never felt like the Crosby was out of its element. My last aluminum ‘cross bike was a bit on the harsh side, but not this Swobo. It could be a combination of tires, saddle and frame, but I never felt beat up on bad pavement, although the fork could start to feel a little harsh on rougher dirt roads.
At their core, Swobo bikes are designed for urban use, and some of the small details show attention to urban riders’ needs: bolt-on (theft resistant) wheels, a neutral paint job with minimal flashy logos, a bottle opener under the seat, and a chainring guard to keep those ‘80s legwarmers grease-free. My attempts to gain some street cred with sweet stoplight trackstands were made a bit difficult by the play in the rear hub in fixed mode; it took a bit of practice to stay feet-up and clipped-in at a standstill.
Unfortunately, the local cyclocross race season was over before the arrival of the Crosby, but for someone who is a weekday commuter and weekend racer, this bike could be a very good option. The aluminum frame is noticeably lighter than its steel-framed competition, and the stable handling is my idea of a good time for ‘cross racing. You racers can keep those evil twitchy race bikes for yourselves— I want something that is happy drifting feet-up through muddy turns.
A few other things stood out to me, both good and bad. First, the new Avid Shorty brakes are brilliant. The previous design was impossible to keep quiet, but the new ones went about their work with nary a squeal or shudder. I’m sure some credit goes to the frame and fork too, but a tip of the chapeau to Avid anyway. As well as the Shorties work, I couldn’t help but want to install at least a front disc brake for all the crap I’ve been riding through, but the front hub has no disc mounts, so I’d need a new wheel for that upgrade. Bummer. Fortunately, the frame and fork have plenty of room for 32mm tires and full fenders. Without fenders, the fork might fit up to a 42mm tire; the rear looks like 38mm would max out the clearance, Clarence.
Swobo has a real winner here in the utilitarian ‘cross bike category. Super versatile, understated design and aesthetics, substantially lighter than most of its competitors, but still affordable. I’d be glad to start a long-term relationship with the Crosby; with my basement full of bits, I could see lots of parts-swapping fun in my future.
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Price: $1,000 (frameset: $550)
Sizes Available: 53, 55, 57 (tested), 59, 61cm
By Eric McKeegan
Fast bikes are fun, no doubt about it. Fast bikes are made more fun with a good drivetrain. Being sick of slow bikes, I wanted fast, and at precisely the right time, the new Shimano 105 group showed up at Bicycle Times HQ, followed soon after that by a test bike equipped with it, too. Egads, two fast bikes—what was I to do?
Ride them, lots. To work, on long road rides, on trails, in the woods. What did I find? Well, 105 works, and works well, is the terse answer. To be more verbose…
The major visual change is the full aero/under-the-bar tape routing for both shift and brake cables. Not only does this clean things up visually, it makes the use of a big handlebar bag much easier; tourists the world over will rejoice. The hood shape is about as close to perfect for my L/XL hands as I’ve ever found: flattish across the top, smooth transition to the bar, and skinny enough to get a grip on, with a nice lip in the front to wrap my index fingers around. The brake levers are ergonomically pretty sweet, but I can’t help but be visually bothered by the slight dogleg bends in the levers. Picky, picky, picky.
Fortunately I can’t see them while riding. The shift levers are well placed, although I felt like the inner lever had a lot of throw where nothing happened. The guts of shift mechanisms seem pretty exposed; I never had any trouble with them, but as an all-weather rider it would be nice to see some shielding from the salt, sand and dirt. None of these things prevented me from making thousands of perfect shifts. Click, click, click… One note: don’t use the word “brifters” around me, unless you want punched. Thanks.
I’m going to bet these cranks are lighter and stiffer than the previous generation; Shimano doesn’t usually go for heavier and less stiff. The thing more people will notice is the slight increase in space between chainrings, which means less chain rub when running the smaller cogs with the inner rings.
As expected from Shimano, the front shifting was stellar. I rode both the triple and compact double, and both were quickly forgotten as they shifted with no issues, even under load. The triple in particular stood out; I’ve seen plenty of issues with road triples, but Shimano seems to always get it right. The chain never hung up during shifts and never tossed itself over the smallest chainring on the triple, a problem I remember from my not-so-long-ago days as a mechanic. The part-shiny/part-matte finish has some fans, but I can’t count myself among them. I am glad to see the black or silver options, since putting silver parts on most new carbon fiber bikes is like wearing brown shoes with a black belt.
Shimano tweaked the pivot location for more power while riding on the hoods and I’m impressed with the improvement, which is a high compliment from someone spoiled with high-end hydraulic discs on most of my personal bikes. The brakes return a nice solid feel with enough modulation to deal with unpredictable traction. New pads are said to improve power and wet weather performance as well. When paired with Shimano R450 long-reach calipers on one of my test bikes, I was less impressed with the braking power and modulation. I’m not sure if it was due to less expensive pads, or perhaps the long-reach caliper was a bit less stiff. I didn’t think the brakes were bad; they seemed on par with most road brakes I’ve used, but the full 105 combo was noticeably better.
Cassette and Chain
With the addition of a tenth cog, the cassettes now start with a 25-tooth large cog (up form 23 teeth previously) and stop at 28. (See "Update" note below, ed.) I was about to complain about the lack of bigger-cog compatibility, but a recent press release revealed a tweaked derailleur for 2012, capable of handling up to 30 teeth. Those needing more range can opt for a mountain bike derailleur and cassette. The chain has a new profile this year to go with its narrower width. There is now a front and back to the chain with inner and outer plates designed to either shift up on the cassette (inner) or up to a larger chainring (outer). All this newness and engineering results in some fine shifting, fine enough to pretty much ignore it and concentrate on riding.
Not much to say about the rest of the group. The derailleurs played well with the shifters, chain, chainrings and cogs. The bottom bracket isn’t grindy or noisy. I didn’t test wheels or hubs. I did get a set of the new road pedals to test, but I am still looking for my old Sidi shoes to get them set up, as I’m pretty stuck on the two-bolt SPD mountain bike system; it seems like most of my rides include some walking, or hiking, or climbing. Worth mentioning are the 5 and 10mm shim options to adjust the reach of the levers, a boon to those with small hands and thick gloves.
Slotted right in the middle of Shimano’s road component line-up, depending on your perspective the 105 collection is either a budget racing group or a high-end recreational set-up. I found very little to complain about during my time riding the parts, and probably thought about it less than I should have. It worked well enough for me to ignore it and think about more important things like “When is this Brooks saddle going to break in?” and “Why aren’t anatomic bars anatomic?”.
I’m not sure if there are many road racers out there in the Bicycle Times audience, but if you have a 105-level bike and you are losing races, you can’t blame your drivetrain—it works much too well. It is also 30g lighter than last year’s group, so your massive wattage will surely propel you to the top step on the podium, where you can be smug knowing you bested the boys or girls with the fancy electronic shifting. And to top it off, it looks like all parts are compatible with the previous generation of 105 parts.
Those of you with less racy bikes will also be well served. With the impending release of Shimano cyclocross-specific cranks, front derailleurs and brakes, I can see 105 gaining more spec on pricepoint cyclocross race bikes, fat-tire road bikes, and general 700c-wheeled knockaround bikes, and with good reason. Besides reduced weight and the bling factor, there is little reason to spend more money on drivetrain parts. This stuff just plain works.
- Shift/brake levers: $340
- Cranks: $250
- Rear derailleur: $85
- Front derailleur: $50
- Brake caliper: $65
- Cassette: $75
- Chain: $45
- Pedals: $110
In the 105 review in issue #11, I said: “With the addition of a tenth cog, the cassettes now start with a 25-tooth large cog (up from 23 teeth previously) and stop at 28. I was about to complain about the lack of bigger-cog compatibility, but a recent press release revealed a tweaked derailleur for 2012, capable of up to 30 teeth. Those needing more range can opt for a mountain bike derailleur and cassette.” While this statement is somewhat correct, the recent redesign of the mountain bike derailluers to 10-speed rendered them incompatible with the cable pull of road shifters. While not an officially sanctioned pairing, 9-speed mountain derailleurs will shift acceptability using 10-speed road shifters on a 10-speed mountain cassette. Still confused? Get ye to ye olde bike shoppe, and they will sort you out.
– Eric McKeegan
This review originally appeared in Issue #11. You can order a copy of this issue in our online store, or order a subscription and you’ll get all our reviews delivered right to your door long before they appear online.
A few weeks ago I finished my 5th year of Crush the Commonwealth, a 400-mile cross-Pennsylvania ride/race. It is unsupported, so gear selection is a big part of preparing for the ride. Clothing is probably the easiest place to save weight, but also the easiest to get wrong and be miserable. I carried a bit more than I needed, but I never got cold.
Photo by fxdwhl
On my body
- Swobo 753 wool/poly jersey (both days)
- Dirt Rag Lycra shorts (fresh pair on day 2)
- Swobo P. Coltrane knickers
- Drunk Cyclist Socks
- Dirt Rag/Fox Incline gloves
- Native Sunglasses
- Continental cycling cap
- Specialized helmet
- Specialized MTB racing shoes
On the bike
In a Carousel Design Works Escape Pod
- REI bivy sack shoved in the bottom (could have left home, but wanted some hypothermia protectin in case things went lopsided at night in the middle of nowhere).
- Bicycle Times/EWR wool Jersey
- Dirt Rag wool knee warmers (didn’t use)
- Sock Guy arm warmers
- Thick wool socks (put on the morning of the first day, cold feet, left them on for the rest of the trip)
- Pearl Izumi rain jacket (very lightweight, left the rain paints at home)
- Dirt Rag Buff
In a Jandd Frame bag
- Tool kit
- multitool with chain tool
- tire lever
- zip ties
- spare cleat and bolts
- patch kit
- Princeton Tech EOS back up light
- 2 tubes
- Okele Stuff Chamois cream (best stuff I used for all day rides)
In a Jandd Handlebar bag
- bulk energy chews from the co-op
- half pound peanut M+Ms
- 3 various gels
- peanut butter and honey sandwich
- NUUN electrolite tablets kona cola flavor
- sunscreen stick
- cell phone
- didn’t bother with maps this year, route is memorized
This was by far my smallest load, but I looked beast of burden like compared to some folks. Not really a lot of stuff I’d cut out of this other than the knee warms and bivy sack, which aren’t very heavy, but they are bulk.
This was all attached to a right swell Rock Lobster road bike, which I’ll be talking about in an upcoming blog post.
I’m terribly late with a lot of web content, and our illustrious web editor is probably rightfully miffed at me. I am sorry and I am not awesome with deadlines.
But you know what is awesome? This is awesome. My four-year-old son, first ride on a bike with pedals. Was it wrong that I wanted to offer him a celebratory beer when we got home?Tweet